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It takes a great deal of patience, creativity and passion to make exceptional wine and the prestigious accolades recently awarded for our Mont Rochelle wines are testimony to the hard work of Michael Langenhoven, our Mont Rochelle winemaker, and his amazing team in the winery.
Here's what the team scooped up:
We caught up with Michael to congratulate him and his team on their achievements and to find out more about why winning these accolades are important and what inspires him to make great wine.
Congratulations Michael! How do you choose what wine to put forward for an award and why are winning these accolades important?
Thank you! We are so pleased. It's extremely important for us to win these accolades because an award-winning wine stands out on the shelf - especially when there are 50 other bottles - and assures the drinker of its superior quality and taste.
When it comes to picking the wine to put to forward, I rely on my gut feeling as a winemaker and go for the one I think will do well in a competition.
View the Mont Rochelle wine collection here.
How do the judges grade the wines?
I am a qualified wine judge myself, so we normally judge the wines on a 100 point system. The judges will look at the colour of the wine, the nose of the wine and then the pallet. Each of these will carry a point and will add up to a total of 100 points.
There’s a lot of excitement and suspense at the award ceremonies and it is usually organised at a lovely venue and includes a formal lunch or dinner.
We hear winemaking runs in your family, tell us a little about how you fell in love with wine and what made you become a winemaker?
It certainly does. My mum's cousin, a former Springbok rugby player, is a well-known winemaker and runs his own winery in Stellenbosch.
From a very young age, I always loved being outdoors and spent a lot of time with my grandfather who taught me about agriculture. During one school holiday, I worked in a wine cellar and that was what really got me interested in the industry. I decided there and then an office job was not for me.
It's such a satisfying job to grow the grapes for a whole season, make the wine during the harvest before nurturing the wines in barrel for 18 months and then finally putting your best wine in a bottle for others to enjoy.
You’ve had an impressive career spanning over 17 years, with many awards and accolades under your belt (including the most recent ones), what has been your proudest moment so far?
I am really proud to be Sir Richard Branson’s only winemaker in the Virgin Limited Edition collection.
It is also very exciting when you successfully sell out all the wine you made that year and receive prestigious accolades for the wine you have created, which is indeed very rewarding for the whole team in the winery.
As a winemaker, what inspires you to make great wine?
My passion for wine is what inspires me.
As a winemaker you only have one harvest a year, in other words, one chance a year to do the best you can. I like to be involved in the vineyard with the farm manager throughout the growing season to make sure the vines are exactly as we want them because I believe you can’t make great wines from average vineyards.
When our harvest season starts, there is an indescribable excitement in the air, from tasting the grapes in the vineyard to making sure when to pick them, to the first load of grapes arriving at the winery. The smell of freshly fermenting juice is incredibly exhilarating.
What is your favourite grape varietal(s) to work with and why?
Sauvignon Blanc is a grape that is very close to my heart. It has such a diverse variety that is very terroir driven. As a winemaker, you can also manipulate the style of wine that you want to make from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Warmer areas normally give you more tropical flavours, and cooler areas give you more greener flavours on Sauvignon Blanc.
Do you have any favourite wine pairings you always recommend?
I love Sauvignon Blanc with goat milk cheese and green figs and a good spicy Syrah with venison is always a winner.
Can you share 3 top tips to have the best wine tasting experience?
Book a wine tasting at Mont Rochelle here.
Having guided many successful harvests in Franschhoek, France as well as California, what would you say is the most important ingredient or combination for creating the best wine?
In my opinion, experience is probably the most important ingredient to have as a winemaker and passion for wine is an absolute must.
My philosophy is to experience and explore what other winemakers (locally and internationally) do and to then use the tactics that are relevant to me. It is essential for winemakers to travel to other winemaking areas and countries to stay up to date with the latest trends and technology.
Outside of the Cape Winelands what is your favourite wine region in the world?
Sancerre in France for white wines and the Rhône Valley in France for reds.
What brought you to the winery at Mont Rochelle? What in your opinion makes our vineyard and wine cellar so special?
I always wanted to be involved in the full circle of winemaking, from nurturing the vines in the vineyards all the way to making and eventually helping to sell the wine. And as a boutique winery in Franschhoek, I saw Mont Rochelle as an exciting opportunity where I could focus on crafting very premium world class wines.
With our new replanting process, we have virus free vineyards which is very special and any winemaker’s dream.
What is your vision for the future of the Mont Rochelle wines? Do you have any exciting plans in the pipeline?
My vision is to have Mont Rochelle recognised as an internationally renowned bespoke wine brand.
We are also really looking forward to starting our own Cap Classique wine (sparkling wine) in 2023 and are also investigating a Rosé wine for the future.
What has been your biggest challenge so far and are there any dreams that you would like to accomplish in the future?
The pandemic left us with a lot of challenges. For a long time, we could not sell wine and this made it very difficult for our vintages, however our team recently came up with some new selling strategies that have really boosted our sales nicely.
I have big plans and dreams for our Franschhoek winery at Mont Rochelle that I am very excited about and can see some very positive changes happening already.
We have the right people on board and great vineyards that, together with hard work, will help us realise these dreams.
What advice would you give a young person starting out as a winemaker?
Work hard and be passionate and you will be successful. If you do not have a passion for wine, then you'd rather do something else.
Knowledge makes good wines, but knowledge and passion makes great wines!
If you weren’t a winemaker - what would you have liked to be and why?
If I wasn't a winemaker, I would be a game ranger for sure because I love to be in the African bush and enjoy learning about our amazing wildlife and animal behaviour. A good glass of wine will also taste great in the evenings around a big fire in the bush! I'll definitely be heading to Ulusaba at some point to do just that.
What the judges said...
"A heady perfume of mint and fennel with ripe black fruits. Expressive on the palate with a show of well-integrated tannins. Such a silky texture!" IWSC 2022
"Youthful in appearance, on the nose there are generous amounts of violets, red fruit, and white pepper. The palate displays juicy red fruit and spice, with leathery undertones, yet remains fresh and elegant with a well-rounded and polished tannin profile." Michelangelo Awards 2022
You can buy Mont Rochelle wines online here.
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